Two U.S. military veterans appeared on Russian state television on Friday after the pair were captured by Russian-backed forces last week while fighting in Ukraine.
U.S. Army veteran Alexander Drueke, 39, and U.S. Marine veteran Andy Huynh, 27, were taken prisoner after encountering a Russian armored unit last week. Speaking into the camera, Drueke addressed his mother from what appeared to be an office, according to The Associated Press.
“Mom, I just want to let you know that I’m alive and I hope to be back home as soon as I can be. So, love Diesel for me,” he said in one video, referring to his dog, a mastiff. “Love you.”
In another video, shared on Twitter by reporter Joseph Haboush, a man who identifies himself as one of the captured Americans says, “My name is Alexander Drueke. I am against war.” The video ends with Drueke speaking Russian.
A third video shared on Twitter shows Mr. Huynh describing his involvement with the Ukrainian forces and what occurred at the time of his capture.
“We engaged in combat with Russian troops. The Ukrainians were retreating and we were asked to cover their retreat. When we were covering them, the Russian forces overran our position. We had to fully retreat,” he said.
“One of my colleagues and I waited about three hours in a fighting hole just to make sure the coast was clear. After those three hours, we ended up walking through the woods for about five hours. We eventually got onto a road when we surrendered to Russian forces.”
Ian Bremmer, president of GZERO Media, tweeted photos of the two captured Americans.
Teammates who reportedly fought alongside Drueke and Huynh told The Telegraph that they were captured after entering an area that they thought was clear, only to find themselves face to face with two Russian T-72 tanks and multiple BMP-3 armored vehicles.
Russian television reported that Drueke and Huynh were separated from their group and eventually made their way through the woods to a village where they were confronted by Russian-backed separatist forces. The Americans reportedly surrendered to the Russian-backed troops and are being held in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine.
The Daily Beast columnist Julia Davis tweeted video showing a discussion about the Americans’ fates on Russian state TV.
“It seems two Americans have been captured. I can only imagine what will happen now,” the Russian tv host says, according to a translation. “The Telegraph writes that the first Americans fighters have been captured by Russians in Ukraine. [Alexander John] Robert Drueke and Andy Huynh.”
“Both of them have served in the U.S. Army, both traveled to Ukraine,” he continues. “Now, as I understand, there will be a trial. Based on the precedent, there will be a death sentence.”
“Yes, there are no other options,” Russian politician Andrey Gurulyov responds.
The U.S. volunteer fighters’ capture comes just days after pro-Russian separatist forces in eastern Ukraine captured two British nationals and a Morrocan national in the eastern Donetsk region and, after a two-day trial, sentenced them to death for fighting as mercenaries. British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss called the trial a “sham” with “absolutely no legitimacy” and lawyers for the three men are actively trying to appeal their death sentences.